Federal court hears arguments on oil, gas lease in Montana

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — An oil-drilling lease dispute has continued in federal court over whether to cancel the lease near Glacier National Park in Montana on land considered sacred by the Blackfeet tribe.

The U.S. Court of Appeals heard arguments Monday from lawyers for leaseholder Solenex LLC and EarthJustice, which is representing the Blackfeet Nation and some environmental groups, the Missoulian reported Tuesday.

Drilling leases in Badger-Two Medicine have been a point of contention for years, court officials said.

The Bureau of Land Management in 2016 canceled the oil and gas leases held by Moncrief Oil and Solenex LLC drawing a lawsuit from the two firms. A U.S. District court later reinstated the leases.

Moncrief reached a settlement with environmental groups, but Solenex is still defending its lease, company officials said.

The challenged lease cancellation would protect tribal members describe as its last traditional sacred territory, Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso said.

The cancellation is “arbitrary and capricious and a violation of (the agencies') delegated authority," Solenex attorney David McDonald said.

Neither attorney commented on which way the court might rule.